Directed by Patty Jenkins
Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Danny Huston, Davide Thewlis, and Elena Anaya
We have a pulse! We have a pulse!
Yes, after three failed attempts to jumpstart the franchise, at least critically, it appears the DCEU finally has its first major success in “Wonder Woman” and this is not just because the other movies are fucking terrible by comparison; this is a genuinely good movie!
Director Patty Jenkins crafts a story that is both fun and poignant and even with its imperfections is still easily the most enjoyable film of the summer thus far.
(Not that that has been terribly difficult to surpass this year either…)
“Wonder Woman” is an origin story about Diana, princess of Themyscira, whom along with her fellow Amazons have a sworn duty to protect the Earth from the corruption of Ares the God of War. When an American spy pilot, Steve Trevor, crashes on the island, World War I comes with him as well. Fearing that this must be the work of Ares corrupting the hearts of man into conflict, Diana journeys with Trevor to London so that she can find Ares and end the war.
After the blundered moodiness of the Superman films and schlockiness of “Suicide Squad,” “Wonder Woman’s” greatest achievement (other than being the first narratively coherent film of this franchise) is that it’s the first super hero film in this franchise that actually feels heroic and doesn’t feel bad about it!
The previous DCEU films seemed so concerned with being serious and edgy compared to their more successful (albeit mostly bland) rivals in the MCU that they kind of forgot that these characters are supposed to be inspiring.
(You know, “inspiring.”)
Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman shows fearlessness in the face of danger, compassion for the disenfranchised, and just generally does the right thing. Gadot does well at capturing Diana’s regality and heroism with obvious charm throughout the film and even though she can at times seem more sexual than fierce there’s no denying her presence on screen.
(Not that I’m complaining of course…I’m sorry what were we talking about?)
Action scenes like the one that takes place on “No Man’s Land” highlights the character’s full range of skills and heroic qualities. It’s an amazing sequence that is both inspiring and exciting.
Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor also does well in the film providing dry wit and a bridge to the modern world for Diana. His character is equally compelling, albeit slightly underwritten, and Pine carries his end of the story without upstaging the main protagonist. Between Gadot and Pine they form a wonderful chemistry that’s fun to watch and together carry the film’s main themes.
(”It Diana first time…BE GENTLE!!!”)
But “Wonder Woman’s” greatest success is truly its ability to tell a story about both female empowerment and war without beating your head over with it.
The most underrated sequence of the movie are the scenes that take place in London (mild spoilers ahead) where the film’s feminist message is largely shown. It’s easy to interpret these scenes on the surface as a simple fish out of water sequence ala 2011’s “Thor” but deep down they hit a much deeper chord.
Diana comes from a world where women are equals, where they are judged as such and are expected to fight and stand-up for themselves. The audience knows Diana is strong both mentally and physically but when she arrives in London, Steve Trevor immediately does a lot of hand-holding with Diana enforcing customs that may seem harmless but are really diminishing of who she is. He won’t let her walk around in her armor because it’s too revealing, won’t let her talk to children because women in society are supposed to be reserved. He takes her to a clothing shop where she’s expected to wear restrictive clothing that highlight her feminine features but also restrict her fighting prowess, then she’s expected to stay quiet during a war room meeting when she clearly understands war as well and even when Trevor knows Diana is strong enough to fight on her own he still instinctively tells her to get back when German spies attempt to kill them.
Its easy to understand the message of the film when given this context and it highlights how even the strongest of women in society can be held back by even well-meaning intentions.
(Also, fuck you if the words “female empowerment” or “feminist” bother you. If you were one of the neckbeards who lashed at Alamo Drafthouse this past week, double fuck you.)
In regards to war, “Wonder Woman” is also triumphant in showing its viewers its brutality and complications.
Diana is convinced that by defeating Ares the war will end instantly as, in her belief, man is only corrupted through Ares and humanity couldn’t possibly be inherently bad. As she trudges through the war-torn battlefields, however, it becomes increasingly clear that these conflicts aren’t so simple to attach a single villainous face to. Steve Trevor openly admits he has done terrible things in the line of duty and one of their companions, a native American, talks about how his people have been nearly wiped out by Trevor’s country.
Wars and their players are complicated, and the film, for most part at least, details this well by showing that even in a super hero film villainy has many shades.
(Pictured: Many shades of villainy.)
“Wonder Woman” is of course far from perfect as the third act is a major drop-off from the first two resembling more of the schlocke we had grown accustomed to in this franchise. It’s rushed, disjointedly edited and the big “twist” with the bad guy resembles something the MCU would have tried with their own bad guys.
That being said, the first two thirds of the film earned enough clout, at least for this reviewer, not to be all that irritated by the ending. It’s definitely its weakest point but it isn’t its downfall either.
(Unlike “other” movies where the entire film is the downfall…)
In the end, “Wonder Woman” is a solid, enjoyable entry in not just the DCEU of course but super hero films in general that puts even a large section of the MCU to shame. It triumphs in both its scale, messages and, at least mostly, its narrative and thus far is the best film of the summer.
For the first time ever, there appears to be some hope for the future of the DCEU but how the franchise handles its new found hype and errr…expectations (this is new) remain to be seen.
Just please, Warner Bros, leave Batman’s mom out of it from here on out…
4 out of 5
So are the critics still “Marvel Shills,” DCEU fanboys? Or are you going to finally willing to admit the other three films were bad? Not holding my breath…